Congress Has Voted Proactively To Remain Clueless About Technology
from the well-isn't-that-great... dept
The Office of Technology Assessment existed in Congress from 1972 until 1995, when it was defunded by the Newt Gingrich-led “Contract with America” team. The purpose was to actually spend time to analyze technology issues and provide Congress with objective analysis of the impact of technology and the policies that Congress was proposing. Remember how, back when there was the big SOPA debate and folks in Congress kept talking about how they weren’t nerds and needed to hear from the nerds? Right: the OTA was supposed to be those nerds, but it hasn’t existed in nearly two decades.
Rep. Rush Holt thought maybe it would be a good idea to change that, and proposed an amendment that would have allocated some funds to bring back the OTA. And Congress voted it down (164 – 248), because, really, who would want a more informed Congress concerning issues that deal with the underpinnings of economic growth and innovation?
It’s a puzzling move given how often people comment on Congress’s shortage of technical expertise — and it speaks to the way Congress view technical expertise as a luxury rather than a necessity. When they zeroed out the OTA’s funding in 1995, Holt says, the new Republican majority “actually said Congress shouldn’t have any special perks. As if having a congressional agency that provides advice is a perk.”
The real problem is that Congress doesn’t think it needs to pay for objective advice on tech issues, because it already gets subjective advice on tech issues from lobbyists.
The problem, Holt continues, isn’t that Congress doesn’t have access to technical advice. To the contrary, there’s an endless parade of people wanting to advise Congress on technical issues. But much of the advice comes from lobbyists and other paid advocates who might not have the public’s best interests at heart. A staff of in-house technical experts could help members of Congress distinguish good advice from advice that is merely self-serving.
Nice work, Congress. I’m guessing those against this can argue that they’ve “privatized” the technology advice they get, letting the market decide. Right?